An Airman's Story: Brigadier General James Maitland Stewart

Brigadier General James Maitland Stewart was born on May 20, 1908, in Indiana, Pennsylvania.

He attended Mercersburg Academy, played football, and was a high jumper on the track team. Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart also participated in the choir, glee club, and the John Marshall Literary Society and was the art editor of the yearbook. His hobbies included making model airplanes, drawing, and chemistry. He was an avid fan of Charles Lindberg.

Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart began his collegiate career at Princeton. He majored in architecture but spent much of his time with drama and music clubs, including the Triangle Club, instead. In Summers, Brigadier General James Steward performed with The University Players,  an intercollegiate stock company that attracted the attention of the film studio MGM.

Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart obtained a contract in 1935. After a slow start, he became a well-known actor in many films, including "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "The Philadelphia Story." He also learned to fly during this period, earning a private pilot license in 1935 and a commercial license in 1938.

In October 1940, he was drafted into the U.S. Army for World War II but failed the physical screening because he was five lbs underweight (he was 6'3'' and 135ish pounds). Determined to serve, he worked with a trainer and re-attempted enlistment in March 1941. Still skinny, Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart managed to talk into service.

Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart was considered too old for Aviation Cadet Training and achieved his wings through the Service Pilot program. He was assigned to behind-the-lines and recruitment duty, including creating an enlistment film. Appealing to his commander, he was finally transferred to the 445th Bombardment. In October 1943, he was deployed to England and flew over 20 combat missions, including leading the 2nd Wing attack on Berlin on March 22, 1944. Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart returned to New York on August 31, 1945.

Brigadier General James Stewart remained in the U.S. Air Force Reserves until May 1968 and commanded the Air Force Reserves of Dobbins Air Force Base.

After WWII, he returned to acting. His first film was It's a Wonderful Life. Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart also began to branch out, appearing in Westerns and Hitchcock films, including Vertigo and Rear Window. He summarily rejected war movies.

Later in life and semi-retirement, he appeared on the small screen and appeared on the Jack Benny Show and the Tonight Show. He also fought against the colorization of black and white films.

Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart also actively participated in the Boy Scouts, the Sons of the American Revolution, and other programs to bring attention to the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. General Stewart also wrote poetry.

Brigadier General James Maitland Stewart died on July 2, 1997, and rests in Forest Lawn Cemetery.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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